This blog is very focused on career advancement and development. That’s our job. And since The Great Recession intruded on our era of endless credit, many managers and executives have had to focus more on survival – and at the same time we’ve had to determine the survival status of many of our employees. We’ve been zeroing in on who is versatile, who has the capacity to take on more work, and who has the most talent. We’ve also had to deal with employee pay-cuts, reductions in benefits, and restructuring.
All this has been disruptive for execs who want to advance their own careers and those of their employees. Amidst all this turmoil and the distractions from career focus, something else has come to my attention lately in my own professional back yard. Life.
That’s right – Life. At our small company (less than 100 employees) – just since the disappearance of Lehman Brothers and the troubles at Merrill, AIG, Fannie and Freddie – we have had two births; several pregnancies (employees and spouses); a couple of engagements; and some not-so-pleasant happenings as well.
Let’s focus on the good stuff, especially so close to Mother’s Day. Life will happen, even if it leads to “career interruptus.” At our company and in my career, we’ve always tried hard to accommodate parenthood and family for our employees. It’s inevitable in any productive work force that at least some employees will choose marriage and parenthood. While those life happenings often create disruptions (honeymoon vacations, parental leave, etc.,) they are inevitable and the accommodations can come with a silver lining.
By meeting employee life challenges with flexibility and creativity, retention of top workers increases and better morale is often a by-product. These events – while inconvenient for the employer – are extremely meaningful to employees. Our company has employees on flexible schedules and in some cases a certain amount of work is permitted to be done at home. That doesn’t work for all companies and even in our case – not for all employees – but when it’s possible it’s an important perk.
Even in hard economic times, top employees have choices. And even those who stay put now might defect later if stung by inflexible policies and unfair treatment. Our advice: embrace your employees and their joy by making accommodations and listening to their needs. You can’t always compromise when Life happens – and you won’t always want to embrace Career Interruptus – but success begins with awareness.